Mauch Chunk Formation

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The Mississippian Mauch Chunk Formation (Mmc) is a mapped bedrock unit in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. It is named for the township of Mauch Chunk, now known as borough of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania,[1] where Anthracite coal mining & shipping was first commercially exploited in a vertically integrated enterprise, helping overcome the decades long United State's first energy crisis[2] by the forward looking Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company & builders of the game changing Lehigh Canal and nation's second operational railroad — all of which aided boot strapping the American Industrial Revolution,[3] including financing many early railroads, building 8 of the first 10 successful anthracite iron blast furnaces in the Lehigh River valley.


The Mauch Chunk is defined as a grayish-red shale, siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate. The Loyalhanna Member is a local limestone and sandy limestone at its base, as well as the Greenbrier and Wymps Gap Members. Along the Allegheny Front, the Loyalhanna is a greenish-gray, calcareous, cross bedded sandstone.[4]

Depositional environment[edit]

The early Mauch Chunk beds were deposited on a large basin receiving most of its sediments from distant highlands. Sea levels fluctuated and allowed some limestone deposition to occur early as well. Since the dominant color of the Mauch Chunk is red, much of the sediment was deposited above sea level in oxidizing conditions. The green-colored members indicate a reducing environment characterized by frequent inundation by water in a swamp, delta, or shallow sea. Later beds have frequent conglomerate beds signaling the first wave of the Alleghenian orogeny.[5]


Plants from the division Pteridospermatophyta notably Adiantites have been identified. Some fish and worm burrows have also been observed.[6]


Relative age dating of the Mauch Chunk places it in the late Mississippian epoch, with some of the top layers in the early Pennsylvanian epoch, being deposited between 345 to 320(±3) million years ago. It rests conformably atop many formations. Its upper contact is complex. In certain areas, the contact is conformable in others, there is an unconformity. However, the Pottsville Formation is always above the Mauch Chunk.[7]

Economic uses[edit]

In 1953, a small amount of uranium was mined from the Mauch Chunk Formation near Jim Thorpe. (see Uranium mining in the United States)


  1. ^ Reorganized in 1952 by combining with cross-river East Mauch Chunk, and changing their names to honor the Amerindian multi-sport Olympic Champion Jim Thorpe.
  2. ^ James E. Held (July 1, 1998). "The Canal Age". Archaeology (online). A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America (July 1, 1998). Retrieved 2016-06-12. On the settled eastern seaboard, forest decimation created an energy crisis for coastal cities, but the lack of water- and roadways made English coal shipped across the Atlantic cheaper in Philadelphia than Pennsylvania anthracite mined 100 miles away.... George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other founding fathers believed they were the key to the New World's future. 
  3. ^ Bartholomew, Ann M.; Metz, Lance E.; Kneis, Michael (1989). DELAWARE and LEHIGH CANALS, 158 pages (First ed.). Oak Printing Company, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: Center for Canal History and Technology, Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museum, Inc., Easton, Pennsylvania. p. 4-5. ISBN 0930973097. LCCN 89-25150. 
  4. ^ Berg, T.M., Edmunds, W.E., Geyer, A.R. and others, compilers, (1980). Geologic Map of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Geologic Survey, Map 1, scale 1:250,000.
  5. ^ Wood, G.H., Trexler, J.P., Kehn, T.M., (1964). Geology of the West-Central Part of the Southern Anthracite Field and Adjoining Areas, Pennsylvania. United States Geological Survey, C-46.
  6. ^ Jennings, J.R., (1985). Fossil plants from the Mauch Chunk Formation of Pennsylvania: Morphology of Adiantites Antiquus. Journal of Paleontology, v 59 n 5, p 1146-1157.
  7. ^ Berg, T.M., et al., (1983). Stratagraphic Correlation Chart of Pennsylvania: G75, Pennsylvania Geologic Survey, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

See also[edit]